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2022 GMC Sierra 1500: Denali Ultimate, AT4X add lux on top of lux [First Drive]

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We’ve been following the much-needed updates on the 2022 GMC Sierra 1500, so we don’t want to dig too far into the details here. But if you’ve been living under a rock, the crux of the changes revolve around the vastly improved interior and the introduction of two new trims.

So, after our first recent drive, we’ll touch on what’s new, then dig into the two new trims, which is all we had the opportunity to drive.

New tech on the 2022 Sierra

Other than the interior, the biggest changes will come in the form of technology. First, the 2022 Sierra switches over to the Google-based operating system, which means it adds Google Maps, Google Assistant and Google Play. The maps are just like the phone-based version with real-time traffic, but we didn’t see any cop or traffic notifications pop up while we were driving.

As a bonus, you can also connect your phone to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto wirelessly. All of this is standard, but the use of the Google system is a trial – and we’re not quite sure what happens when the trial period is up if you opt not to subscribe. I’m don’t think GMC knows what will happen either because it’s banking (literally) on the fact that everyone will continue to pay for the service once the free stuff is up.

Another big tech add will be the newest iteration of Super Cruise, which now has automatic lane change and trailering capability. We were able to play around with this system during the press preview, and it’s pretty flipping awesome – even if it freaked out Publisher Tim Esterdahl.

Though General Motors doesn’t but a number on the iteration of Super Cruise, it kind of feels like a 3.0 system to me because it is not only advanced but also has new capabilities.

I test drove the first iteration of the system several years ago in a Cadillac CT6, and it did well enough with keeping you in your lane on a straight highway – but it went a little crazy in construction zones.

This newest system is very competent and handles construction better, but still knows when the driver should take control. Additionally, it knows when it can changes lanes, and initiates the lane change with a signal and then actually moves the vehicle from one lane to the next.

Another 3.0 feature: You can tow hands free when the system is engaged. Though we didn’t test it on this preview, Esterdahl had the chance to check it out previously, and it works eerily well.

2022 Sierra

Is the Denali Ultimate actually the ult?

We spent the least amount of time with the new 2022 Sierra Denali Ultimate, but it was plenty of time to enjoy the heated, massaging seats. The materials and features are definitely the ult with full-grain leather seats, open pore wood accents, a 15-inch head-up display and a 13.4-inch infotainment screen.

The vehicle overall is a WYSIWYG with zero options except paint color, so the MultiPro tailgate, carbon fiber bed and power running boards are all included in the price. Plus, the blacked-out chrome on the grille definitely looks more upscale.

The one big miss on the Denali Ultimate: The lack of rear climate controls. We’re talking about an $83k lux-level vehicle here, and you should be able to change your temperature in the rear for that price. But you can’t.

There were two other minor misses on this vehicle that weren’t a big deal for me but could be a dealbreaker for some: no panoramic moonroof or sunglass holder.

How is the AT4X different from the ZR2?

We recently drove the Chevrolet Silverado ZR2, and some of our followers on social were asking about how this version is different from the off-road ready AT4X. Well, the first difference is going to be price. The AT4X, with a base price of $77,395, is about $7k more than the ZR2.

But with that increase price tag comes a lot of lux-level amenities. It gets a lot of the same features as the Denali Ultimate – including the full-grain leather seats and heated-and-cooled massaging seats.

And then it also gets the off-road capability of 11.1-inch ground clearance, front and rear e-locking differentials, 32-inch tires, terrain mode and larger skid plate.

But here’s the bigger difference: The on-road ride is more dialed in. When we drove the ZR2, we thought it was very impressive off road, but the on-road highway and surface street driving seemed a bit squishy. The AT4X in comparison has an almost sporty feel on road. It definitely doesn’t squish.

2022 Sierra

A word about the gear shift

The Denali Ultimate and AT4X trims of the 2022 Sierra do not offer bench seats. Therefore, they are only available with the 10-speed-automatic, console-mounted shifter. And if TikTok is anything to judge by, people kind of hate it. We saw this same shifter in the Chevy Silverado, and die-hard truck fans either want a column shifter or think this new-fangled shifter is too confusing.

My verdict: It’s all what you get used to in the ownership process. I drive more than 100 cars a year and I’ve seen everything from push-button shifters to column-based knob things. They all start out weird, and you get used to it.

Don’t let the newness of the feature turn you off. Let the features (like massaging seats!) and overall ride comfort steer the way.

The bottom line on the 2022 GMC Sierra 1500

The improvements GMC made on the 2022 Sierra are important and necessary. The front seat comfort is improved (on the Denali Ultimate and AT4X, at least), and the interior design is infinitely better than the 2021 model.

From the materials to the technology, this is the truck we wanted from the 2019 redesign.  It may be 3 years late, but I’ll say better late than never.

Editor’s note: Driving impressions in this “First Drive” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. GMC covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization.

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